By Kyle Jaracz email@example.com As seen in the Fall 2022 issue of Park Pilot.
There is a critical need in the US for turnkey programs that introduce aviation during the discovery phase of learning. These programs must inspire a love of
aviation and its associated fields of study/employment. Furthermore, these programs should accurately display the enjoyment that is inherent in the aviation careers upon which our nation depends.
By providing model aviation programs in high schools, AMA is developing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and aviation competencies, while also providing access to these programs in traditionally underserved and minority populations.
Boeing stated in a September 22, 2021, article for General Aviation News that “The global aviation industry will need to keep a sharp focus and engage in collective efforts to build a robust, diverse talent pipeline through more educational outreach and recruitment, development of new pathways to aviation careers, investment in early career learning opportunities, and deployment and adoption of more efficient learning methods.” Model aviation activities address this gap in aviation programming, and the hobby is essential to the progression of skills that students must develop to be positioned for aviation careers.
Model aviation has inspired aviation and aerospace careers for many, including Neil Armstrong, Robert “Hoot” Gibson, and Matt Keennon (TheParkPilot.org/destination-mars). The need for aviation programs is most prevalent at the high school level to greatly increase the likelihood of students participating in and developing sustained interest in aviation.
By designing a program for all students, youth are introduced to a positive STEM environment during their formative years, potentially inspiring them to be bold and confident future leaders in aviation and in their communities. UAS4STEM is an AMA educational competition that launched in 2012. Teams of four to 10 students design and build a drone to complete a specific mission challenge. Teams must also build a custom mechanism for the mission and learn how to program an autopilot system so that objectives can be performed autonomously.
The goal of UAS4STEM is for high school students to learn, practice, and demonstrate professional UAS (unmanned aircraft system) knowledge, mission planning, flight skills, data collection, analysis, and safety practices in a competitive environment.
In addition to technical skills, students develop professional skills, such as communication, public speaking, time management,
Strategies to communicate efficiently vary from team to team, but those who communicate effectively perform the best.
Students inspect an aircraft prior to flight during the UAS4STEM national competition at AirVenture.
All students complete a virtual ground school that includes the study of the scientific principles governing flight, aviation safety, aviation meteorology, and aviation radio communication. These topics help prepare students to operate in the NAS (National Airspace System) safely and successfully, whether participating in uncrewed flight via UAS or as a part of their journey to piloting full-scale aircraft. In the virtual preliminary competition, teams demonstrate their readiness to fly the mission and are scored on their efforts. The top-scoring teams are invited to compete in person.
Students have told us that UAS4STEM has increased their self-confidence and improved their leadership, teamwork, and STEM skills.
These qualities are all crucial to success in aviation. Approximately 30% of the participants registered for the 2022 UAS4STEM contest were female. Both
the captain and staff sergeant from the AFOCS (Air Force Special Operations Command), who were guest judges, stated that in their professional experience,
“ …the UAS4STEM competition adequately prepares students to conduct UAS missions at the level that we would expect from our own AFSOC crews.”
UAS4STEM participants begin by forming their teams and determining team roles then completing a series of six sequential challenges.
These are comprised of the following:
• Challenge 1: Pass a virtual ground school course created by AMA that prepares students to earn their Part 107 certification. This course is required for all participants, who can work at their own time and pace.
• Challenge 2: Design and build a drone and mechanism to complete the mission challenge. Learn how to program the aircraft for autonomous flight using autopilot software.
• Challenge 3: Using provided guidelines, develop a rehearsed team presentation that conveys acquired UAS knowledge and experience.
• Challenge 4: Deliver the team presentation synchronously and virtually to a panel of judges during the preliminary competition. Demonstrate knowledge by answering questions and displaying autopilot programming skills in the Mission Planner challenge.
• Challenge 5: Qualifying student teams from the preliminary round of competition prepare to take to the sky for the international championship, hosted by EAA at AirVenture Oshkosh in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
A STEM approach: The activities within the above challenge set encourage a STEM-based approach. As lessons are learned, the data is used to inform subsequent decision-making within the competition. Specific instructions are not provided about the fulfilment of the mission’s parameters. This places the responsibility on the teams to research options and methods, which leads to innovative and exciting engineering solutions.
A safe approach: Safety is the highest priority. The framework of responsibility within the competition is enforced by mentors, team members, and judges. All participants must comply with national and local regulations regarding the safe operation of UAS within the NAS. Each participant will be enrolled as an AMA pilot, receiving insurance and flying within the confines of a federally recognized safety program.
A student-led approach: We encourage educators (team mentors) to facilitate the discovery of solutions without directly providing them so that students self direct their learning experience within the framework of rules, conversations, and ground school. In order to be successful, the team of students must learn how to work together as a cohesive unit.
A decentralized approach:
Participation, regardless of location, is one of the primary program goals. Teams are not required to travel to compete, as evidenced by our virtual
Virtual live meetings are held monthly to share information, ask questions, and facilitate discussion with the program’s
staff and peers. The only potential travel expense is for teams that are invited to the nationals.
The UAS4STEM national event was held once again at EAA’s AirVenture Oshkosh in Oshkosh WI, where the students and mentors were able to enjoy all aspects of aviation at one world-class event.
Skydio was the title sponsor for the 2022 UAS4STEM competition, which took place July 27-29 at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh. The company leverages artificial intelligence to make drones more useful for consumers, enterprises, and publicsector agencies. In addition to providing funding for the teams, Skydio donated Skydio 2+ Pro Kits to AMA for youth education and to the top three winners of the 2022 UAS4STEM contest.
We are eager to see what creative endeavors our winning teams will pursue with the host of features on the Skydio 2+ drone.
The availability of training resources is a huge benefit for UAS4STEM students and educators,and is one of the reasons we are so thankful to have had Skydio as our title sponsor for the 2022 season.